Exceptional bar stools that take comfort and a design aesthetic into account make drinking a lot more sociable. And if you ask us, that’s what a trip to a cocktail bar is all about.
We worked with Christopher Howe, one of our Pimlico neighbours, to find just the right bar stools for Clarendon Cocktail Cellar. Christopher has had a shop in the area since 1986, after graduating from Goldsmith’s College. Since then, he’s gone on to furnish some of the most renowned cultural institutions in London, from The National Gallery to Hampton Court Palace – and he creates his own designs too. Together, we decided his Captain’s Bar Stool design was just right for our tucked away cocktail bar.
Christopher originally designed the Captains Bar Stool for Riding House Café in 2010. It was unusual for such care to be taken into bar stool design at this time – most were made in factories in other countries and ordered from catalogues. Riding House Café owner Adam White wanted the seat itself to take inspiration from a car seat, with a fluted back, but with more of a cosy, bucket shape. The design also needed to be as compact as possible, so enough of the stools could fit around the bar.
The stool bases are made from steel and solid ash. “I wanted the base to be as skinny as possible, to make it an amazing piece of engineering,” Christopher says. “The rod in the centre is only just as thick as it needs to be, so there’s an interesting tension in the design.” In fact, the steel construction itself was developed by an engineer machinist who restores old Formula One cars.
Howe at 36 Bourne Street is behind the poppy-coloured, natural Morocco leather used on the bar stools. The shop is run by another Goldsmith’s graduate, Joanne Brierley. The goatskin leather they use comes all the way from southern India, from one of the few places left in the world that’s still tans leather using natural ingredients.
Most leather tanneries spray their leather using toxic chromium, which is lethal to the environment when it inevitably makes its way into rivers. On the other hand, the natural process uses water mixed with tree bark, which has tannins in it, preserving the leather and preventing it from rotting. “This is the process that’s been used for millennia, since cavemen,” says Joanne.
The leather is steeped in natural dye in drums, which makes the colour inherent to the leather and not one-dimensional, as it would look if it had been sprayed on. The whole process takes a month rather than the two days the chemical process takes. As well as environmental benefits, treating the leather in this way creates longevity too. It has depth, variety and the look improves over time. Joanne compares it to flooring. “Solid wood floors get better over time and all the knocks and scrapes add character. Whereas laminate flooring just looks tired after a while – it doesn’t have the ability to take a scratch or stain and look better for it.”
In the same vein, the goatskin leather Howe at 36 Bourne Street uses has the natural knocks and scrapes on it a goat gets from roaming around. “We try to educate our customers this isn’t a compromise,” Joanne says. “The goats had a good life roaming free and the scratches add character. We even see the occasional mosquito bite!”
The Captain’s Bar Stool slots right into the design aesthetic of Clarendon Cocktail Cellar. The combination of steel, timber and lovingly sourced materials fit the mood down to a tee. And the stools are amazingly comfy too, meaning it’s not that easy to leave…